A Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee has received the green light to build a two-story restaurant at a long-vacant former gas station site on East Main Street, across from Kent State University’s historic front campus.
The Kent Planning Commission on Tuesday approved the site plan presented by architect Elizabeth Eaken of David Sommers & Associates on behalf of franchisee David Bloom, who was unable to attend the meeting.
But that approval didn’t happen quickly. Commission members expressed concern that there will be only seven parking spaces on the small lot at the corner of East Main and University Drive to serve a restaurant with seating for 46 people.
Bloom and Eaken told the Kent Board of Zoning Appeals in May they’re confident the eatery will attract primarily walk-in customers due to the close proximity of campus, as well as plenty of drive-thru customers. The zoning board approved all the necessary zoning code variance requests made by Bloom and Eaken.
Bloom had said the number of employees working at the site would range from a minimum of two during afternoons and evenings to as many as eight on the two or three busiest days of the week. And those employees, he said, would likely be told to park on nearby streets, leaving the seven parking spots for customers.
A neighboring rental-property owner told the commission he is concerned about noise from the drive-thru speaker.
Eaken said Bloom owns a Cleveland-area franchise, also adjacent to a residential area, where he installed a drive-thru speaker with adjustable volume. A six-foot-high masonry wall to be constructed at the rear of the Kent property also should help dampen noise from reaching the rental home to the north.
Initially the donut-and-coffee shop will be open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, but could evolve into a 24-hour restaurant if business warrants it.
Eaken told the planning commission she used the zoning board’s constructive criticisms to alter the 3,111-square-foot building’s exterior design. The structure will house operations, restrooms and seating on the first floor, with an additional seating area in a second-floor loft.
The commission approved the project with the following stipulations:
- The plan must pass technical site plan review.
- The drive-thru order board must include a self-regulating noise reduction system.
- The owner must agree to comply with all city noise ordinances.
- A sidewalk to the service door must be installed.
- A rack to accommodate four to six bicycles must be installed near the patio area.
Eaken said there isn't an official construction start date set. Bloom had said in May that "we’d love to be able to break ground this year."
Through the years, the land has been home to various gas station and convenience store operations, but the space has been vacant for almost a decade since the last gas station there closed.
The property has been owned for 22 years by Gastown Inc. of Delaware, which has a mailing address in Findlay, OH, according to the Portage County Auditor's Office.
The Dunkin Donuts proposal has the support of Kent Economic Development Director Dan Smith, who said the size of the lot has proved challenging to other businesses who considered redeveloping it.
"Other interested parties have asked if the lot could be expanded by purchasing land to the north, (in the) neighborhood," Smith said. "This proposal would not require additional property and would eliminate an unattractive vacant property.”